12 June 2018

Abu Wadie, Druse of the Golan Heights

There are less than 23,000 people and they have a history and an identity that differs from the other faithful. We went to meet the Druse who populate the Golan, on the border with Syria.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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Druse of the Golan Heights
My name is Rafiq Ali Ibrahim, from Majdal Shamas, a village that is part of the highlands of the occupied Syrian Golan. I was born here ... And my story can be summarized as follows: I was married 48 years ago. Unfortunately I have not received the grace to have children, but I am still satisfied with my life. Everyone calls me Abu Wadie'e who, as the name implies, means trusting in the hands of Almighty God, up there in heaven.

His moustache and eyebrows are thick and whitened by time. The traditional veil frames a face marked by the years, yet constantly lit up by a smile that seems to want to document the proverbial welcome and generosity that qualifies the people to whom Abu Wadie belongs, that of the Druses who populate the Golan Heights, on the border between Israel and Syria.

Druse of the Golan Heights
We are known for our ancient traditions and values, and we are proud of it. We live together, in collaboration. We share everything in every situation, both in times of joy and sadness. In case of marriage, all the villagers arrive to share the joy of the family. We are united. In fact, we have no choice but to be together, in all circumstances.

Like many of his fellow countrymen, Abu Wadie lives on fruit tree crops, especially cherry and apple trees. Animal herding and agriculture are the two main sources of livelihood of the Druses of the Golan, now divided into 5 small villages, for a total of about 23,000 people.

The main center is Majdal Shams. Like the others it was conquered by Israel in the 6 day war of 1967 and unilaterally annexed in 1981.
Unlike the approximately 100 thousand Druze living in Galilee, the majority of the Golan inhabitants have since rejected Israeli citizenship and therefore being enlisted in the national army, limiting themselves to having a permanent residence.

Druse of the Golan Heights
I call myself a Syrian Arab citizen. We are proud of our citizenship and identity and we will never give up. Our identity reads: Syrian Arab citizen, regardless of our confession. This is what characterizes citizenship in our beloved homeland Syria.

With about 1.5 million faithful in the world, concentrated in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Israel, plus a small community in the United States and Australia, the Druse doctrine is particularly complex, bringing together elements of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism.

The Druze are named after Nashtakin Darazi, a preacher of the eleventh century. In the end this man was declared a heretic, but the word remained. We are Syrian Arabs and Muwaḥḥidūn (Unitarians).

While Wadie sips a coffee in front of the house in the company of his wife, they hear in the distance the shots coming from the Syrian mountains. Beyond a border marked only by a barrier of barbed wire. A barrier that shows all the complexity of a wounded earth.